26 September 2023

JAMAICA: PS ‘fear return to office’

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Many Jamaican Public Servants are fearful of returning to offices after working from home for two months because of COVID-19.

A survey conducted by the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute at The University of the West Indies, in collaboration with the Jamaica Civil Service Association, found that 104 of the 289 public sector workers surveyed said they feared being in contact with individuals and possibly contracting and spreading the virus to others.

Another 90 workers were worried about the limited supply of personal protective equipment, enforcement of social distancing rules, sanitising and conducting of mandatory testing.

A total of 87 expressed uncertainty with return to work and work operations as well as the unavailability of online access to conduct work activities.

“Another biting concern of some respondents is the lack of concern for employees who still have to commute to work,” the survey’s authors wrote.

“They say the risk and safety of staff are not taken into account, as business places are closed to the public yet workers are being asked to expose themselves on a daily basis to come into the office.”

The survey found many Public Servants wanted the Government to provide special transportation.

Head of the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute, Danny Roberts (pictured) said the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the face of the workplace.

“Calling back employees who have been working from home should be done based on proper analysis,” Mr Roberts said.

“Employers must ensure that the required protocols, such as social distancing, sanitisation and wearing of masks are observed to ensure that mistakes made during the 1918 Spanish flu — when rules were relaxed and another wave of the virus caused millions of deaths — are not repeated,” he said.

Mr Roberts also called on the Government to consider a wage subsidy which, he said, would allow more workers to keep their jobs.

Kingston, 30 May 2020

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